Dire Straits Keyboardist Eyes New Music

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Alan Clark of The Straits performs on stage at Shepherds Bush Empire on June 21, 2012 in London, United Kingdom. 

"We've got an album, definitely," says Alan Clark current member of the Straits.

If Alan Clark has his way, there will be more Dire Straits music in the future -- though not necessarily by Dire Straits.

Clark, the group's keyboardist from 1980 until its dissolution in 1992, has joined forces with saxophonist Chris White, a fellow alumnus, to form The Straits, a group that's dedicated to playing Dire Straits' music. But Clark tells Billboard they'd like to add to the legacy in time.

"It's always been my intention to do some (new music)," says Clark, who co-produced Dire Straits' final studio album, "On Every Street," and played on Bob Dylan's "Infidels," which Dire Straits' frontman Mark Knopfler co-produced. "It's taken longer than I thought, longer than I'd have wished to do it, but, yes, that's definitely going to be part of The Straits. I don't want to sit around playing just Dire Straits material the rest of my life without mixing it up with new stuff. This band is a living band as opposed to a tribute band, I suppose." Clark is currently working on seven new compositions, though he says "not all of them are going to be Straits songs." But he predicts five will be, and more are coming, including songs being written by Straits guitarist Terence Reis.

"We've got an album, definitely," Clark says. "Initially we might put out an EP and sell it on the Internet, and then when people start asking to hear it we'll start incorporating that music into the shows."

The idea for The Straits came to Clark in 2011, when he was asked to put together a band for a charity show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Recruiting Reis, bassist Mickey Feet, second keyboardist Jamie Squire and guitarist Adam Phillips and using drummer Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty's Hearbreakers -- who Clark played with in Eric Clapton's band and who is godfather to Clark's two children -- that show "was such a phenomenal success that we decided we should stay together and start doing some gigs. It progressed into being a permanent idea, basically." Ferrone plays with the group when the Heartbreakers' schedule allows.

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"I hadn't been harboring any desire to do this until the opportunity arose, really," Clark says. "If somebody had said to me four years ago I'd be doing what I'm doing with The Straits, I'd have bet them quite a lot of money I wouldn't. I couldn't imagine anybody who could realistically replace Mark Knopfler, first of all, until I came across Terence. And then the Royal Albert Hall gig was such good fun and we had such a good time rehearsing and the band is so great, it just came together. I thought, 'Hey, I'm enjoying this, let's continue,' and people really like hearing these songs again, because they really don't anymore. Mark still plays some, but he doesn't go as deep into the catalog as we do."

Clark says he hasn't spoken to Knopfler about The Straits, but the keyboardist says he's confident the guitarist would approve. "I'm sure that he knows his music is in excellent hands, and no doubt he'll be looking at this on YouTube and stuff and knowing that we're doing a damn fine job. I wouldn't be involved in this unless it was top rate." Through his publicity, Knopfler declined Billboard's request to comment on The Straits.

The Straits did its first extensive U.S. tour earlier this year. The group plays again June 27 in Plymouth, N.H., and has a spot at the 80's Rewind Festival on Aug. 31 in the U.K., and Clark says more shows will be added to the schedule soon.


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